My Sweet Girl:
It’s funny that on the day before I’m celebrating your birth that my thoughts would turn to my death.
You’re turning 12 tomorrow, and I’ve spent the last week or so wondering where the years have gone. How is it possible that my baby is on the brink of being a teenager? Exactly where did the years go?
Between the nostalgia your birthday brings and my recent brush with breast cancer, I find myself wondering what things I need for you to know on the morning you wake up to the realization that I’m absent from this body and present with the Lord. My death is not a thought I like to dwell on, but it’s also something I don’t want to shy away from. I’ve always tried to be open and honest with you and to prepare you for life as best I can. I’ve seen too many mommas leave their babies behind, and I want you to be prepared for the inevitable—prayerfully in the very distant future, long after you’ve finished graduate school, married and given me grandbabies.
Here are a few things I need for you to know:
- Love God with all your heart, all your mind and all your strength while you are young. I feel like I wasted so much time as a kid not valuing my relationship with God. If I had trusted in Him and listened to Him, I would have avoided so many mistakes, and life would have been so much easier. I need for you to know that you should value your relationship with God now. Tomorrow is not promised, and it is foolish to think that you can have “fun” or get your life together then turn to Him.
- Let the past make you better not bitter. There are so many experiences in life that can leave you having regrets or that can leave you angry at the world and at people for years, if not a lifetime. Use those situations to fuel you to be better and do better. Learn to forgive others and yourself and count the situations that leave you hurt as lessons not losses.
- Teach people how to treat you. People will do to you what you allow. If you don’t like something someone says or does to you, shut it down, even if you’re trembling while you tell them not to do it anymore. If you don’t say something, people will think what they are doing is acceptable, and they will keep on. If they continue saying or doing something you don’t like after you’ve told them how it makes you feel, that is a sure sign you don’t want to deal with that person because they don’t respect you. Limit your contact with them or move on.
- Know your worth. You are valuable. Your thoughts matter. Your life matters. You matter. You deserve love and happiness, and you never, ever have to settle. Period.
- Pursue your passions. Figure out what you like and pursue it with everything in you. It may not make you a lot of money, but it will bring you joy, which is much more valuable. Your gifts will make room for you, and they will bring you before great men (Proverbs 18:16). In order for them to make room for you, you have to know what your gifts are. Expose yourself to new foods, interests, people, experiences and activities. Even if you don’t like what you try or the people you meet, you have a basis for knowing why you don’t like them.
- Dance like no one is watching. I spent so much time worrying about what other people thought of me. Sometimes you just need to dance like no one is watching, even if you’re off beat, look goofy or miss a few steps. So what if others laugh or talk about you? Don’t let that stop you from having fun.
- Get to know yourself. How do you like your eggs? That’s one of the lines that sticks out to me from the movie Runaway Bride. The main character played by actress Julia Roberts never could seem to make it to the altar, even though she had been engaged several times. One of the questions another character asked of all the men who had proposed was how Julia liked her eggs. Each man had a different answer. It turns out Julia liked whatever they liked. Don’t do this. Figure out the things you like and don’t like and what makes you tick. Who’s your favorite singer? Do you like to stay up late or wake up early? There are so many questions you can ask yourself, and some of the answers will change over time. That’s okay. Figuring out the answers means you will need to spend time alone sometimes, just thinking and praying. That may mean taking a walk around the park, getting up early in the morning or eating lunch alone. Do those things sometimes. In order to be alone with yourself, this means you need to actually like yourself, so do what you need to do to really and truly like you.
- Family is everything. We spend a lot of time together and with our extended family. One of the reasons we do this is because family is everything. Many times they know you as well as you know yourself. You have history with them, and they love you, faults and all. You don’t have siblings on my side of the family, but you have plenty of cousins, aunts and uncles. Call or text them just because, meet them for a meal, make a point of planning events with them so you all stay connected. After you have a family of your own, make them your top priority after God. Attend your kids’ events, have date nights with your husband, take family vacations, meet your friends for lunch. As you get older, you will realize that family is not just defined by those with whom you share blood. You will have friends that will be closer to you than a biological sister. Value those relationships.
- Don’t be afraid to love and be loved. Open your heart to loving and being loved. It may not come in the package that you have always dreamed. Be okay with that. While you are loving others, please remember to love yourself.
- It’s okay to say “I’m sorry.” You are going to make mistakes. They are a part of life. If you hurt someone’s feelings, say I’m sorry. Make sure it’s sincere though. Don’t just say it because you think it’s what you’re supposed to say. If for whatever reason it doesn’t hit you until the distant future that you need to apologize, know there’s no time limit on it. It has been laid on my heart to apologize years after the fact. Also know that just because you say you’re sorry, it doesn’t mean the person will necessarily accept your apology or even want to deal with you again. You have to make peace with that.
- People come into your life for a reason or a season. Everyone is not meant to take the entire journey of life with you. I have some people in my life I have known since elementary school. I believe they still have my back now just like they did then. On the flip side, there are people who I thought would always be a part of my life, but life has happened, and for so many reasons we have gone our separate ways. Don’t hold on to relationships that you know in your heart need to end. Be okay with walking away, no matter how much it hurts, and figure out the lessons you need to learn from those relationships. Know that God will bring someone better to fill that void.
- Treat people the way you want to be treated. If you want people to be nice to you, be nice to them. If you want people to acknowledge you, acknowledge them. Show kindness, pray for people, be a friend, keep secrets, don’t talk about folks, reach out and hug someone if you see they are in need of it. People are people, regardless of their race or religion. We all hurt, we all cry and laugh. Go with your gut and treat people the way you want to be treated.
- Say thank you. When people do something nice for you, make a point of acknowledging their kindness by taking a moment to at the very least say thank you. If you really want to make their day, take time to handwrite a letter or send a card letting them know how much you appreciate them.
- Life goes on. The morning after you wake up to find me gone, please don’t stop living. Miss me, cry for me, smile at the memories, but don’t let my death paralyze you. Don’t spend time wondering if you’ve made me proud. You have. Don’t question whether I knew how much you loved me. I do. Don’t wonder if I loved you. I do with every fiber of my being. Don’t let the death of me be the death of you. One day, you will laugh again, and don’t feel guilty about it. Not even for a second.
Please know that every day of my life, I’ve tried to mirror these truths. I pray my actions for you speak louder than these words ever will. Happy birthday, my sweet girl. Thank you for the joy you bring to me daily. Know I love you with everything I have in me, and I am blessed to be your mommy.